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Peter Belshaw’s Team Sherardize made it winning start to their 2016 season, taking victory in the closing stages of the four hour race at Oulton Park, with new co driver Jay Shepherd taking the victory flag.

Xcat started on pole but soon started to fall down the order as Graham Roberts took the initiative for JPR Uvio, with Julian Thomas ousting MCAC’s Philip Jones for second into Old Hall on the third lap.

All three continued inches apart with Roberts and Thomas exchanging places every lap. Jones tried to split the pair again, which brought Harry Mailer into contention too for Apollo Motorsport.

Jones had spell in front too, which coincided with Thomas dropping back for a few laps. “I had a slight brake problem and had to adjust the bias,” he explained,

The first stops came just before the first hour was up, but JPR Uvio had a growing lead while Jones had pitted for his stop with bodywork rubbing after contact with Mailer. The Apollo driver had led too, the fourth different leader in the first hour. “I was leading when I got hit and then lost time at Druids, gutted as I wanted to hand the car over in the lead,” said Jones.

Mailer had also been given a drive through penalty, “I got hit at the start and lost some of the loose bodywork on the grass and then went through the Knickerbrook chicane a couple of times,” he admitted.

One hour in Farquini Deott led for JPR Uvio by 7.952 secs with DFDC having made massive progress into second during the stops. Zoe Wenham’s Apollo car was third, from Track Focused, Racelogic and Sherardize.

The first safety car period came after 33 laps and from the green flag Deott started to rebuild his lead, while Jay Shepherd took second for Sherardize at the expense of Michael McCollum’s Track Focused car just before the pitstop window opened again.

Apollo were out of contention when they pitted with the front wheel collapsed, but as the round of driver changes were completed and the second hour elapsed, the JPR Uvio duo had pulled out a lead of over 28 seconds with Eco Racing, Track Torque/2 rent Dominos and Racelogic line astern for second as Sherardize chased them in sixth.

“Graham had made a great start for us and we had an excellent first stop. It was quite lonely until the safety car had closed it up, but we had no radio either,” said Uvio’s Deott.

We lost time when we refuelled and our radio wasn’t working either,” added Sherardize’s Shepherd.

Having dominated from the start the lead car was in trouble early into the third hour. “The battery shorted out and killed the electrics,” Roberts explained. With his car stranded the safety car was out again with Tom Mills in front for ECO from Thomas’ Racelogic, Henry Dawes’ 2 Rent Dominos and Shepherd’s Sherardize.

With the safety car still out the whole field pitted together and rejoined incident free, with David Denyer’s Racelogic car leading out from Paul Turner’s ECO and Chris Hart’s 2 rent Dominos.

From the green flag Denyer was under attack immediately, losing out to Turner and Sherardize’s Belshaw, running nose to tail as Hart did his best to join them and Team Honeywell entered the frame after Tim Wheeldon ousted Denyer into Old Hall.

Belshaw pushed hard until he finally dived ahead of Turner at Old Hall on the 84th lap, pitting from the lead to hand back to Shepherd for the final stint.
Turner handed to Paul Abrahams and retained the lead after the stop, but had Shepherd closing in. “As I honed in he defended strongly and it was toe to toe into Cascades until I got him,” said Shepherd.

Six laps remained and Shepherd finally managed to pull out a four second gap to take to the flag, but Abraham had to defend hard to the flag as Dawes tried everything. “There was a front brake issue from about halfway, just wasn’t right,” said Abraham. “I knew there was a chance I could catch him, but maybe not pass, but I had to work for it,” Dawes confirmed.

“That was a real race though,” said the victorious Belshaw after taking his Sherardize car to its first win of the year, aided by new partner Shepherd.

Tomlinson had briefly lost fifth to Team Honeywell but the Racelogic driver snatched it back from Neil Plimmer onto the Avenue with five laps remaining.

Track Focused completed the top six having demoted Team Lane Roofing Evolution early into the final stint, while PW Racing and MCAC Racing completed the top ten.

The next round of the championship will be at Snetterton on June 11th for the longest championship race of the year, six hours.

1 Team Sherardize (Peter Belshaw/Jay Shepherd) 101 laps in 3h59m56.054s (67.98mph); 2 Eco Racing (Tom Mills/Paul Abraham/Paul Turner) +4.414s; 3 Track Torque/2 Rent Dominos (Chris Hart/Henry Dawes); 4 Racelogic (Julian Thomas/David Denyer/Jon Tomlinson); 5 Team Honeywell (Neil Plimmer/Tim Wheeldon); 6 Track Focused (Sean Cooper/Michael McCollum/Neil Smith); 7 Team Lane Roofing Evolution( Geoff Fawcett/Ed Cole/Christopher Weatherill); 8 Trumans (Colin Kingsnorth/Julian Bricknell/Richard Webb); 9 PW Racing (Paul Wighton/Antonio Armelin/Tom Brown); 10 MCAC Racing (Philip Jones/Matthew Jones/Morgan Jones/Gareth Jones). Fastest lap: DepatchBay.com (James Littlejohn) 2m02.346s (79.20mph).